With a vote of 215 to 212, the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed the fiscal year 2004 budget resolution, which includes President Bush's request for $400 billion to improve Medicare.
The $2.2 trillion spending package includes Bush's $726 billion "economic growth" proposal to cut taxes through 2013. It eliminates more than $200 billion in proposed cuts to Medicare but keeps more than $250 billion in cuts to other federal programs, including Medicaid.
"The budget is a roadmap to improved healthcare for America's seniors and a stronger economy and more jobs for workers," says Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. "It is fiscally responsible but doesn't cut a single penny from Medicare."
House Democrats disagree.
"The Republican budget is clearly not a statement of our national values. It explodes the deficit, fails to create jobs and fails to invest in the education and healthcare initiatives that this country needs for long-term economic growth," minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during the debate Thursday.
Twelve House Republicans and one Independent joined 199 Democrats to oppose the measure. The Senate is debating a similar resolution and is expected to vote later today on a budget proposal that would cut Bush's tax-cut plan in half.
In other House news, the Medicare Regulatory and Contracting Reform Act, HR 810, cleared the Ways and Means health subcommittee on Thursday.
The bill focuses on the reduction of paperwork and the simplification of regulations faced by physicians who participate in Medicare. It provides education and technical assistance to providers and beneficiaries and protects the rights of providers who are audited. It also consolidates Part A and Part B contracting functions and prohibits the retroactive application of new regulations.
"This bill will cut that paperwork and bureaucracy so that clinicians can go back to taking care of our seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare," says subcommittee chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), in a written statement. "America's physicians must be freed from the flood of forms so they can focus their energies on patient care."